The Sugar Quill
Author: Pirate Ginny  Story: After the Library  Chapter: After the Library
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

After the Library

A/N:  I'd like to thank my betas Ara Kane and Happydog, who ensured proper capitalization and captured numerous runaway ellipses.  The usual disclaimers apply: this world is J K Rowling's, and I make no profit from this story beyond my own amusement.

After the Library

By Pirate Ginny

"Oh, damn," Ginny whispered, seeing Madam Pince approach their table. The librarian looked much like Ginny herself did after a dose of Pepper Up Potion. Ginny looked down at the incriminating piece of chocolate in her hands. This makes what, the third time she's caught me this year? The third is a charm. "I forgot," she told Harry.

He still had that sublime, adorable, hopeful look on his face, only there was now amusement there as well. They both scrambled from their seats and raced from the library, dodging books as though dodging Bludgers - thank goodness for Quidditch reflexes. It was all Ginny could do to contain her giggles until they were out in the corridor, gasping and leaning against the wall as Harry's books, scrolls, ink, bag, and quill clattered to the floor.

"Bloody Hell," Ginny said, wheezing with laughter.

Harry stooped to gather his books and scrolls. He looked up at Ginny with flushed cheeks and, for the first time that week, eyes that didn't look haunted by so much as a Cornish pixie.

He grinned a little sheepishly.

"Thanks for the chocolate," he said. He looked as though he were about to say more when the door opened behind them. Harry's mask resettled over his features. He still looked happy, but his expression was guarded again. Ginny thought her heart would pound directly out of her ribcage when she realized that Harry had let her see himself. "Hey, Michael," he said casually.

Ginny put on her brightest smile and turned to face her boyfriend. After seeing the Real Harry, she knew that she wasn't ready for Michael, especially when she saw the chummy-but-not-so-chummy smile that Michael was giving Harry.

Ginny groaned inwardly. Bloody Hell, not this again. She'd been through this with Michael before. First Harry, then Neville, Dean, Colin - Terry Boot, for goodness sake - and now Harry again.

"Hey, Harry." Michael slipped his hand to Ginny's waist, but Ginny avoided the contact by stooping to retrieve Harry's bent quill. She was glad that Michael didn't grab her arse as he had that one time - apparently the boy could actually take a hex-reinforced lesson, which was a good thing. Michael wasn't worth two detentions for casting hexes in the corridors; one, yes, but not two.

Ginny tucked Harry's quill into his bag while Michael made some idle, uninteresting comment about Quidditch or something. The three of them limped through a brief conversation. If Harry sensed the tension, he acted oblivious, but Ginny thought the corridor walls might actually be compressing, drawing closer, squeezing against her chest. She took a deep breath, and the tension eased somewhat.

When Harry had finished tucking the last of his books into his bag, he rose, clutching his inkpot. "See you, Michael, Ginny," he said. Ginny didn't miss the look of real gratitude in his eyes when he looked at her again, or his grin, or the smudge of chocolate egg that still clung to the corner of his mouth. She tried not to imagine what it would be like to... so stop imagining!


"See you, Harry," she said, glad that her voice didn't come out as breathless as she felt...glad that she was already so flushed from their library exodus that Michael wouldn't notice the effect that Harry's parting, chocolaty grin had upon her.

She sighed a little. Completely oblivious, aren't you, Harry?

Michael had the decency to wait until Harry had vanished around the corner before he started.

"What was that all about?"

Ginny shrugged. "Chocolate in the library again. Third time this year, can you believe it?" She steeled herself before looking up; she couldn't remember the last time her acting skills had been called upon for something quite like this. "Mum sent us Easter eggs - just got through Umbridge's system - Fred and George already got theirs, and I couldn't give Ron his because he's taken Jack Sloper up to the hospital wing - you'll never guess what that idiot Jack did today! Hit himself with his own bat, I think - and, anyhow, of course Mum sent an egg for Harry too."

She held up the brown box and gave him a mock-seductive look. "Would you like a piece of mine?"

Michael didn't say anything. Ginny waggled her brows as she opened and shut the box lid, but even pretending that the box was a textbook on Hagrid's syllabus didn't seem to assuage Michael's anger. And the babbling hadn't exactly distracted him, either.

Where had Michael's humor vanished to, lately, anyway?

"You know this isn't about chocolate, Ginny."

She blinked. "Oh. Is it about that book I was supposed to loan Terry? Because I gave it to Luna before Quidditch and she swore that she'd give it to him...she must have forgotten - you know Luna. Did you happen to...?" She gave up changing the subject when she saw the muscle twitch in Michael's jaw.

"I saw the way you were looking at him, Ginny. In fact, I saw the way he was looking at you - like you were a bloody Golden Snitch or something. Cho warned me about this! Remember that Valentine’s Day Quidditch practice you wouldn't skive off for me? Cho caught him staring at you as she and Harry were walking out to Hogsmeade! Can you believe that prat? Valentine's Day!"

It was the most ridiculous accusation Ginny had heard in her life. Of course Harry had been watching the Quidditch pitch while he and Cho walked to Hogsmeade. It was impossible not to when the Quidditch pitch was right there. This was nothing but more petty jealousy from Cho combined with a dollop of ridiculous jealousy from Michael.

Stupid git...

Ginny closed her eyes and counted. She couldn't blow it now, but he was accusing Harry of something, and Harry didn't need that. It was one thing for Michael to accuse her of getting cozy with other boys, but this... Harry didn't need this.

"Look," she said, staring up at Michael again. "All I did was give Harry one of Mum's eggs. Harry's a worse chocolate fanatic than me - " small white lie...small white lie… "- and anyone who's been cooped up in the library this week would look like that if they got a stupid chocolate egg during a ruddy revising session."

Or, popped an unbidden thought, if you were finally able to confide in someone that wasn't Hermione and wasn't going to say 'that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard,' or Ron who would give up the situation as hopeless.

Thinking about Michael's accusation, Ginny felt her anger building again, rushing hot color back into her cheeks. "If you want to be a git about it, then fine. I need a shower, I'm starving, and I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!"

He's lucky I don't hex him. He's lucky I don't hex him. He's lucky I don't...

It was worth the second detention, but she swept past him and counted her steps. One, two, three...

She closed her eyes.

Michael was at her side, then, with his arms around her.

Ginny spent the appropriate amount of time embracing him back, murmuring her forgiveness, and even adding a kiss at the end to make Michael believe her words; it was a relief when she finally escaped back to
Gryffindor Tower. Michael would forget all about it by tomorrow. He tried to make her agree to come down and catch the end of dinner, but Ginny lied and said that Hermione had already saved some for her. She was glad that Fred and George had taught her how to access the kitchens - she would tickle the pear later, and get food from the house-elves. Then she was gone, gone, running down the corridor while she remembered that look on Harry's face.

He didn't want to talk to Cho; Harry had actually seemed a little bewildered when she suggested that he speak to her. Ginny felt like skipping. He had confided in her about wanting to talk to Sirius…and he had told Hermione that he was upset about Cho. But he wasn't upset about Cho - he didn't want to talk to Cho... Ginny felt as though her face would split from smiling. And he talked to ME... And Ginny, who sometimes thought she knew Harry far better than he knew himself, felt certain that their brief conversation had actually lifted some of the melancholy from him.

And stupid, bloody git, idiot boy, Ravenclaw, know-it-all Michael had had to bloody go and ruin the moment... Of course, Madam Pince did ruin it first... Ginny touched the back of her head; there was a lump there from where Harry's Transfiguration book had smacked her.

Hermione looked up from her notes when Ginny entered the common room. Harry was seated across the table from her with his back to the portrait door.

Hermione's gaze met hers. Ginny raised her eyebrows, pointed to the dormitory stairs, signaled "five minutes," and went up to her room before Harry could turn around. In her room, she threw the box of eggs onto the floor and flung herself onto the bed before kicking off her shoes. One of the shoes glanced off the door just as Hermione opened it.

The older girl gave her a stern look.  "I should take points away for that, Ginny," she teased.

"Bloody Hell!" Ginny groaned, flouncing upright. It wasn't until that point that she realized how badly she was shaking. Excitement, fear, nervousness for the future... This was so stupid. But it felt...it really seemed like...she had felt it, there, while Harry looked at her in the library. Something had changed.

She buried her face in her hands.

Bloody Hell. Michael. What am I going to do about him? She began shaking uncontrollably.

In a moment, Hermione was sitting next to her with an arm around Ginny's shoulders.

"What happened?"

"It's that idiot, Michael," she muttered, shrugging off Hermione's arm; she flung herself onto her back again, making the bed bounce. Hermione looked down at her in amusement.

"What was it this time?"

"Well, this time, it was me giving Mum's dirty great chocolate egg to Harry in the library." Ginny put her hands over her face. "Michael says I was looking at Harry. Now, granted...I was looking at Harry, but you sort of have to look at a bloke when he's talking to you, don't you?" She removed her hands from her face to find Hermione with a hand over her mouth and laughter in her eyes. Ginny snorted, unable to keep from grinning. "Hermione..."

Hermione grinned. "So Michael yelled at you for looking at Harry Potter."

Ginny put her hands over her face again. "Argh. No. Michael yelled at me because Harry Bloody Potter was looking at me. "


Hermione squealed and fell backwards onto the bed. She giggled and Ginny again unburied her face. Hermione turned onto her side.  "Finally! But was he really looking at you, or was Michael being a git again?"

Ginny blushed. "I don't know. But I think so - about Harry, that is. I mean...I don't think he knew he was looking at me, but he got this look on his face..." She tried to imitate the look. "I've seen that look often enough, now; I know what that look means." She scowled. "It bloody figures that Michael knows that look, too."

Ginny was thinking about one of her past conversations with Hermione in which Hermione stated that Michael seemed to be looking at Padma, Susan, Cho, Hannah...Madam Hooch?...Lavender, Luna even.... At the time, Ginny had defended Michael - what did it matter if a boy appreciated beauty in another woman, anyway? (Though, if he was looking at Madam Hooch, one has to wonder about the boy.) But now...

"So how did it happen - the look?" Hermione asked.

Ginny opened her mouth, but promptly closed it again. She knew that she couldn't tell Hermione anything about her conversation with Harry. Hermione would be dead set against anything having to do with Harry and Sirius communicating. Besides, there was something very private about her conversation with Harry. He really wasn't the sort of person who confided things in people. Ginny felt a little thrill go through her again that he had confided in her. Ginny wasn't sure that Harry would want her to share his confidence - not with Hermione, anyway - and Ginny knew that she didn't want to give up that private moment for anything. Not yet. At least, not to Hermione who had shared a thousand confidences. No, not yet. This was, after all, the first time that Harry had confided something in her alone.

So. "We shared his chocolate egg," Ginny lied. "And I told him about Jack Sloper hitting himself with his own bat, and then he..." Ginny continued to tell Hermione what she could, delighting in the older girl's squeals until Ginny at last found herself relaxing again. She was glad - for once - to have had something worth sharing.

And Hermione, silly girl, didn't find it at all strange for Harry to give a "look" over a shared chocolate egg and Quidditch gossip.


~~~~~~~~


Later, after everyone in
Gryffindor Tower had gone to bed, Ginny snuck downstairs and climbed back up the boy's stairs, up to the seventh year dormitory. She knocked softly. There was muffled laughter on the other side of the door.

"Boxers or briefs?" she heard Fred ask, his voice sounding close to the door.

"Boxers," Ginny said, grinning.

"Cannons or-"

"Cannons!"

"Michael or Harry?"

"Fred!"

"Ewww. No thanks, little sister. You're cute and all that, but...no way! Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?"

"Firewhisky, you idiot! Come on, Fred, let me in!"

He pulled the door open so quickly that Ginny stumbled into him, laughing. Fred picked her up and spun her around.

"What are you doing up here, Little Terror? You didn't come up to our dorm to start snogging Lee, now, did you? I thought you were still with that Corner git." He swung her over Lee's bed and laughed while Lee held open his arms and made kissing noises. Ginny squealed and wrapped her arms more tightly around Fred's neck.

"Fred Weasley! If you drop me, I swear I'll tell everyone about-"

"Whoa there, Little Terror." He swung her over to George's bed, dropped her, and hopped into bed beside her. He and George made a show of squashing and tickling her until their roommates told them to hush.

"Headache," Lee said apologetically.

"Sorry," Ginny whispered.

George winked down at her. Fred pulled the curtains closed, muttered a Silencing Spell, and made a bluebell flame they could see by.

"So what brings our dearest-"

"-sweetest-"

"-scariest protégée up to see her favorite brothers?"

"Mischief. A great feat requiring skill, daring, a mastery of the prank, deviousness, a desire to pull one over Umbridge, and…a willingness to help a mutual friend."

Fred and George exchanged a grin.

"Sounds dangerous," said George. "Who for?"

"Harry," Ginny said firmly, and then was horrified when she did something that she had not done in over a year: she blushed.

Fred smirked. "For ickle Harry?"

Ginny glared. "Look. Don't start with me," she said coolly. "When I took Harry his egg this afternoon, he mentioned that he wants to talk to...someone that we know who will get into trouble if someone like Umbridge were to-"

"Padfoot," George whispered. He and Fred both wore thoughtful expressions. They stared at each other long enough for Ginny's foot to fall asleep.

Fred spoke at last: "How long of a talk, do you think?"

Ginny bit her lip. "Well…Harry's been really down for a while, now. I think he means to say more than hello and 'did you have kippers for breakfast or not, Sirius?'"

"Umbridge's Floo," Fred and George said together.

"That's what I was thinking, too," Ginny said. "He'd need fifteen minutes, at least, maybe twenty. I wish he could have a whole bloody day..."

George looked slightly uncomfortable. Fred closed his eyes. "You know what this requires, don't you, Forge?"

"Yes. But we haven't worked out that last bit, yet… Scourgify is a difficult spell to get around."

"We're close, though."

"And, we'll have to find the right location. Time it so that Filch and Umbridge are both stranded and have to use the other staircase back to the office-"

"Brilliant. Unless Umbridge decides to wade."

"Ha! She'll walk...and that'd take..."

"Twenty minutes. At most," Fred said. He opened his eyes and looked at Ginny. "Don't mention anything to Harry yet. We've got something in mind, but it's our biggest product yet-"

George grinned broadly. "And our foulest-smelling. It might take a week to get the kinks sorted out...we'll approach him when it's ready." His smile faded. "But things won't be the same afterwards..."

Ginny was surprised when Fred took his twin's hand. "We're ready," he said firmly.

After a moment, George gave a sharp nod.

Ginny felt as though she'd missed something, but she trusted her brothers. They would help Harry. Harry had trusted her, she would trust them, and Harry would trust Sirius with whatever it was that seemed to be bothering him, and then maybe Harry wouldn't wander the corridors with that haunted look in his eyes anymore.


~~~~~~~~


Ginny sat in front of the common room fire with Fred and George's parting letter open in her lap and red-rimmed eyes. "Dear Terror," it began. They had known it would happen. They had known...but they were ready. Their shop awaited them. "Good luck with Harry, and we'll see you at King's Cross if Mum doesn't kill us first."

Ginny felt as though she had traded Fred and George for Harry - not that she got to keep Harry, but she had to admit that Harry seemed relieved by his conversation with Sirius. He had eaten dinner with his usual appetite, and had laughed when she told him about how half her DADA class planned to use Skiving Snackboxes for Umbridge's class the next day - Ginny included.

And she, Ginny, was going with a stupid idiot who refused to see anything wrong with criticizing her brothers for an "ill-advised prank that earned them no profit." Git. Prat. And what a Slytherin thing to say besides.

"Ginny?"

She looked up to see Hermione in her dressing gown; there was concern and apology in her eyes. Ginny looked back to the fire, blinking rapidly. Hermione had been upset with her since morning, when Fred and George had approached Harry in the common room. Though they hadn't spoken, Ginny knew that Hermione had figured out what else she and Harry had discussed that day in the library. Ginny was pretty sure that Hermione blamed her for everything that had happened today.

Maybe Hermione should get together with Michael instead of Ron so that they can go and be idiots together.

"Ginny, may I sit with you?"

Ginny swallowed and nodded. She had lost Fred and George. She didn't want to lose Hermione as well.

"I couldn't tell you," she said after Hermione had settled beside her. "You know that, right?"

Hermione sighed. "Yes. Ginny, I'm sorry."

Ginny shrugged. "It's fine."

They stared at the fire for a while.

"Do you know why he wanted to talk to Snuffles?"

Ginny shook her head. "No, but I could tell it was important."

Hermione didn't say anything for a long while. Then, "It was," she said heavily.

A log on the fire gave a sharp snap, and the tension seemed to go out of the room. Hermione drew a long breath.

"You know, Ginny..." Her tone was light again. "That is, you must realize that Harry...that this...well, this means far more than a look from Harry, even if he doesn't know it, yet."

Ginny felt her eyes begin to water. "I know," she whispered, thinking about Michael.

"He doesn't like Cho...doesn't love her, anyway."

"I think he's over her," Ginny said quietly. She swallowed, thinking about what Cho had told Michael about Valentine’s Day and the Quidditch pitch. Ginny remembered that day. She remembered Harry watching and had brushed it off at the time, but what if...

Hermione snorted. "Harry's so oblivious. He really is worse than Ron." Ginny turned to find Hermione giving her a wry grin. "Do you know that your oblivious brother had it all figured out the very day that Cho kissed Harry? - Well, that Harry didn't want to be with her really."

Ginny raised a brow. "Did he? Is Ron as protective of who Harry goes with as he is with me?"

Hermione looked thoughtful; after a moment, she shook herself. "Well, the point is: I was pressing Harry about whether he was going to ask Cho out, and Ron got this look on his face and said that, maybe, Harry didn't really want to ask her out. Harry didn't say anything. And do you know what? I think your brother was right."

Ginny laughed. "Ron said that?" She shook her head. "My brother mystifies me sometimes. But, then...I think he's becoming less oblivious. Though...he should have thought of a better perfume than eau de
Weasley Pond."

They dissolved into giggles and moved onto other topics.

That night, Ginny lay awake in bed for a long while, thinking about how it was becoming less and less impossible that Harry might come to love her. When she slept at last, she dreamt about Harry's chocolaty grin.

 

//
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